Bloomington – Tom Crean had a message he wanted to deliver to a student-dominated crowd Wednesday night at the IU Auditorium.
Sure, the second-year Hoosier coach had plenty of passionate words of wisdom about the challenges they'll face when they leave Indiana University and enter a global work force. He wants them to appreciate the opportunity they have to get an education at a "special place" like IU, and to do whatever it takes to separate themselves during their time in Bloomington.
But he also offered some words about his 2009-10 team, and most notably his heralded freshman class of Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Bobby Capobianco, Derek Elston, Bawa Muniru and Maurice Creek.
He's preaching cautious optimism about the group, knowing they have the tools to return Indiana to national significance again, but not the experience to know how to get there. But he's also requesting some aid from the student body as they get acclimated to college life and college basketball.
From the males in the crowd – particularly the FIJI fraternity where IU senior Brett Finkelmeier is a member – he jokingly pleaded for them to not be negative influences when it comes to the social scene.
"Don't be getting those other ones to rush - we're not doing that," Crean said, drawing raucous laughter from the crowd. "And don't let them come to your parties. Ship those guys out. I don't want them there."
There were plenty of female students in attendance, and he had a comical request from them as well.
"Females, please, PLEASE! Do not smile at those guys and make them think they are rock stars because they have done nothing yet," joked Crean.
But all kidding aside, Crean is excited about the contributions that his six-member 2009 recruiting class can make this season. While Indiana does return its top three scorers from a year ago in Verdell Jones, Devan Dumes and Tom Pritchard, all six newcomers figure to have an opportunity to contribute immediately.
Crean shared some thoughts about each of those players Wednesday night. Here are some of the excerpts of those comments.
Jordan Hulls: "Tim Buckley goes to see him in Pittsburgh at an AAU tournament…Tim's calling me, ‘Jordan Hulls, this kid's Travis Diener. Jordan Hulls, this kid's Travis Diener.' By the end of the night, ‘Jordan Hulls, this kid's Steve Nash.' I kind of like hearing that.
"We bring him in one night about 11:45, the lights are on in Assembly Hall, but dimmed, they're just on the banners…nobody is around and we offer him a scholarship. About 10 days later he brings in all 850 members of his family in Bloomington and they come in and commit. It was awesome."
"That kid never accepted that he wasn't a college player, or that he might be a Division II player, and that he might be a low-major player, and that he might be a mid-major player. I don't think he ever accepted that. Something's telling me that kid always had his sights set pretty high."
Derek Elston: "The other guy that hasn't gotten nearly enough attention nationally is Derek Elston. That guy is one of those people, if he hadn't been injured out on that AAU circuit, there would have been a lot more things written about him. He's good, he's tough. And he wants to be REALLY good."
Bawa Muniru: "Bawa is a unique soul…is he still wearing the shirt and tie to class? (crowd answers yes) We're not telling him to do that. This is a unique guy. He's had a lot of pitfalls in his life. A LOT of pitfalls. But that young man wants to be very, very successful. And I have very high optimism that he will be in time. He has a great attitude. If you've met him you know what I'm talking about. The first 10-15 minutes you're like, ‘is this kid for real? Is anyone that happy? Does anybody have a smile that wide?'"
Bobby Capobianco: "Bill Lynch has been very, very noble not to try to get that kid to be one of his tight ends, one of his linemen. He has that body. He doesn't have tremendous athleticism – that's not there yet. But he's got to have tremendous will. When he shows that will, shows that grit and that fight, and when he's got it you're going to see a guy that will really help us."
Maurice Creek: "He had to go through some hoops academically because his first couple of years weren't so strong, but he really rebounded the last couple of years of high school…right now, if you touch him with your index finger on his back he'll probably fall over because his body is so sore from the workouts that Jeff Watkinson is putting him through because he didn't have that this summer. Pretty soon that soreness will go away and he'll continue to take off."
Christian Watford: "One day he's running with the guards, the next day he's running with the swing guys, the next day we ran him with the big guys because we want him to be a complete player. A COMPLETE player. One day he's being challenged to work on his turnaround jump shot, his up and under, the next he's being challenged to go through four people with dribbling the ball and crossovers. He's got a chance to be a very, very good player because of that versatility."
Crean Talks About His Freshman Class
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